National Salad Month: Elevate Your Greens Game with a Spring Salad

Lots of people think a salad is made from either a head of lettuce that you must chop, or from a bag of pre-washed, pre-mixed greens; a convenience for which you pay a lot of extra money.

Having that convenient salad-in-a-bag is a time-saver, but you’re not just paying for it with extra money. It is costing you nutrients.  

Even “organic” salad mixes might not be what you think. Try this: Empty the contents of an organic salad mix bag into your salad spinner and fill it with water. What color is the water? If it’s cloudy and green, it’s probably been treated with some kind of chemical and you might prefer not to eat that.  You cannot always trust your food packages’ labels to be accurate, but you can trust your own garden.

That is why growing your own spring salad garden is a promising idea (and by the way, May is National Salad Month.) It is easy, healthy, and it will save you money. If you purchase one packet of seeds for salad greens for just a few dollars, you will be able to grow enough greens to make about 20 of those pre-made bags or boxes of salad.

As soon as the weather warms up, it is time to get started on planting your spring salad garden. Greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, bok choy, and arugula will make fast progress in the warm weather. 

Tips for planting your spring salad garden

  • Choose lettuces that have contrasting colors. Use varieties with dark red leaves and different shades of green.
  • Plant for a long harvest season. Arugula and radishes grow quickly, but other greens, such as romaine or crisphead lettuce, take much longer. Include a variety so you can extend the season and your salads will be different from week to week. 
  • Consider salad companion crops: Onions make great companions to lettuce. Pull them early and you will have scallions for your salads.
  • Think about adding some herbs to your salad garden. Cilantro, chives, and dill work very well, and they can also be used in your salad dressing or in your other cooking. 
  • Be careful about the fertilizer you choose. Greens are washed in icy water and eaten raw, so they can’t be exposed to fertilizer that contains manure. Use an organic fertilizer that has been carefully processed, or alfalfa pellets or organic chicken feed for your salad garden. 

Good news

  • All the plants you find in a package of spring mix seeds grow very easily and don’t need much tending.
  • If you grow your own, you can try different varieties that the grocery store doesn’t carry, because the story only sells varieties that save and ship well. Salad greens are at their nutritious peak just after picking. 
  • Even a small space can produce a lot of bowls of salad. 

Your garden is vulnerable to the variables of spring weather, as well as animals like rabbits or deer. You can protect your spring garden by using row covers, which are held up with hoops and secured with boards or bricks. 

If you don’t look for a few weeks, you won’t believe how much your greens will have grown while under those covers. Most greens only need about four hours of sunlight a day, and if you only have a patio or balcony, a container or raised bed are great options. 

Make sure you water your greens often. Your crops will grow best when the soil is kept damp. And be sure to weed regularly and watch for slugs. 

Growing your own greens is not just good for you, it’s good for the planet. You will not be consuming the synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that farmers use, and you won’t be tossing out those single-use plastic packages or bags that are used to package grocery story salad greens.

Your body and the planet will thank you.


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